Harewood House Half Marathon - 1:56:12
A beautifully tough race. This event was a constant hilly battle, sharp inclines mixed in with long steady climbs, all set on varying terrains ranging from thick grassland to bumpy fields and mud thick mounds. Even the downhill sections were hard to run on with slippery mud meaning it was less freewheeling and more a careful, controlled navigation of the safest route. Amidst all of this was the most beautiful scenery though, and a sense of almost peace running through the vast expanse of nature - I loved this start to the year. The race was extra special as it was also the first time my friend and I had been able to take part in something together for over six months, and giving her a weary squeeze at the finish funnel, it felt good to have her back.
Lincoln 10K - 44:18
My hometown race and the event where my running journey started some four years ago. I love ‘Lincoln 10k day’; both the run and post run celebrations, which have now become a bit of tradition. This year I felt I had potential to challenge my PB; I knew I was running well, and I chose a risky strategy of treating the race like a parkrun and just seeing how long I could hold on for. I ran hard, my knowledge of the local roads helping me break the course down into miles, and with gritted teeth and a visible grimace, stopped the clock at 44:18; a new PB and nearly three and half minutes quicker than my previous record. Whilst optimistic, I had not expected that much improvement. I met my friend at the finish line; she was not far behind me setting her own PB, and we congratulated each other in a state of slight disbelief ready for well earned post run refreshments.
Boston Athletic Association (BAA) 5K
Supporting my friend complete the prestigious Boston Marathon was an almost unreal experience. I was so proud of her for qualifying for the race, and the chance to be there to watch her inspiring run was something I simply could not miss. The BAA 5k took place a couple of days before the marathon and I wanted to take the opportunity to experience a little bit of the Boston magic myself. I was not racing; I just wanted to savour an enjoyable run with friends. The route was perfect, a taster of Boston’s streets, which were well lined and very noisy, and also featured the last section of the marathon, including crossing the infamous finish line. If the atmosphere of the event is anything to go by then there is no wonder the Boston Marathon is so special. If I wasn’t already hungry to chase down my own Boston Qualifying (BQ) time for the marathon, I definitely was now. Hopefully I will get my chance to go back one day…
London Marathon - 3:51:03
Marathon number four and my fourth attempt at going under four hours. Having completed London as my first marathon in 2015, I knew it would be a special experience, but had some doubts as to whether it could be just as good second time round. Simply put, it was. I was so emotional, even walking to the start I had tears in my eyes. My training had gone very well and standing on the start line I knew I was probably in the best shape of my life; I had to focus. Running over Tower Bridge brought back the tears; spotting my friend and the sheer amount of people screaming my name was overwhelming. From mile sixteen my quads became very sore, but the London crowds helped me cope – in fact they were immense throughout. I hit 20 miles still on track for a sub 4 finish, but I didn’t let myself become complacent. Along the Embankment I heard the familiar sound of my parents calling my name, this spurred me on more. Turning by Big Ben, it was then it suddenly all seemed real, and on Birdcage Walk my friend was there supporting again. I attempted to shout ‘I’m going to do it!’, and I will never forget the expression on her face looking back which told me she knew I was too. The final turn onto The Mall made me cry (again!), and my pure emotion was demonstrated as I pumped my fists and celebrated in a style very out of my usual character – a moment I will never forget. Overjoyed, I crossed the line in 3:51:03. As I was handed my medal I cried again – pure happy tears.
Liverpool Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon - 1:43:35
Having already notched new PBs at 5k, 10k, and marathon distance during 2017, the temptation to try and add half marathon distance to this list was certainly on my mind. I had not specifically trained for a PB; but I was hopeful my residual marathon fitness would serve me well. This was my third consecutive year running this event, so I knew the course and knew I would love the variation and live music it offers. This year the final four miles along Liverpool's docks featured a lovely head wind, and I knew these miles would make or break my PB. I went into marathon mode, head down and just focused on ticking off each mile. It worked and I crossed the line in 1:43:35; a near 2 minute PB. Never at the start of the year did I think that by the end of May I would have set a new PB at each distance; but I had.
Round Sheffield Run - 1:46:31
A simply unique race which I fell in love with in 2016. The event comprises of 11 timed stages of running, totally 20km, with 4.5km worth of recovery breaks in between stages, and is set along beautiful trails and parkland. I love how each stage offers a different challenge ranging from dirt tracks, mountainous hills, rocky paths, dense woodlands, gradual burning climbs, cityscape descents, and all out sprints; it has everything, and often feels like you are in a different country - definitely not in Sheffield! The race also allows you to compete as a pair, and being able to run with a friend makes it extra special. Running with my friend, we conquered the tough climbs and each of the stage tests strongly; our slight weakness actually being the downhill sections, which we approached with some caution for fear of twisting an ankle at the start of our Berlin Marathon training! Our official time was 1:46:31; 11 minutes shaved off from 2016 and a time which saw us place 17th Female Pair overall.
Clumber Park Half Marathon - 1:47:31
I opted for this race as a way of incorporating my marathon training and a visit from my sister. The event was a matching distance to my training plan and was also set in an interesting location – a perfect fit. The course had a lot of long gradual climbs and very changeable running surfaces; I knew to expect the event to be trail based, but perhaps I was not fully prepared for quite the challenge it would present. I loved running with my sister though, it felt like we were out exploring together, and even though I had ran in Clumber Park a few times before, I did not recognise hardly any of the paths we were taking. We crossed the finish line together, and although aiming to take things easy, placed 5th and 6th overall. An enjoyable test and one I am pleased I had my sister to rise to the challenge with.
Newark Half Marathon - 1:44:45
Another race that fell perfectly within my marathon training plan. Race day proved to be very warm; conditions which helped me treat the event with more of a training focus, as did running with my friend, who is far more disciplined than myself! We aimed for a sub 1:45 time, and the long straight nature of the course was helpful in keeping consistent pacing. The weather was the biggest challenge; miles 9-10 in particular turning simply into a quest to make it to a water station! The grassy finish to the race was also slightly cruel, causing a final fight to the finish. Turning into the finishing straight and running side by side with my friend had a powerful feel; it seemed like we were running as one person almost. We crossed the line in 1:44:45 – mission accomplished. A sweaty embrace showed our happiness; and I hoped the next time we would achieve this feeling would be in Berlin…
Bassingham Bash 5m - 34:14
A growing staple in my race calendar. Set in the charming village of Bassingham it offers a rare opportunity to race a five mile distance, and earn a slice of cake at the end! I never know how to approach 5 miles, so stuck with an aim of trying to run as hard as possible for as long as possible. I flew off at the start, setting starting splits which shocked me, but tried to remain confident in my ability and not collapse. My legs did me proud, and even as a hit the final few hundred yards set on grass playing field, they did not falter, stopping the clock at 34:14; a new PB and over three minutes quicker than my previous time. Cake felt even more deserved now!
Berlin Marathon - 3:48:13
A highly meaningful and memorable race. In 2016 I had completed the event alone having originally planned to run with my friend; injury meant she was unable to take part, and it never felt quite the same. We were thus determined to come back and run it together. I had just one goal for the race this year, and that was to pass through the Brandenburg Gate finish alongside my friend. Race day was cool, and I also felt quite calm in the knowledge my friend was stood beside me on the start line. In contrast the race itself was busy, much busier than I recalled from 2016. We weaved through the field, navigated the madness of water stations, and although adding unwanted distance, we somehow remained together. Up until mile 20 things felt good, but from mile 21 the sheer pain of a marathon hit us both. Despite the pain, we managed to keep pace. I thank my friend for this; I was starting to struggle but the determination of keeping with her and finishing together stopped me from slowing. We passed through Brandenburg Gate side by side, and masked our pain with smiles as we hand in hand ran to the finish line. The clock stopped at 3:48:13, another new PB for me, but what I really cared about was we had started and finished together. It felt so special to share that exact finishing moment; the emotional hug we collapsed into at the end said a thousand words. I will forever remember that exhausted but triumphant embrace, and I will never forget the bond that is formed through sharing those 26.2 miles together.
Lincoln Half Marathon - 1:42:07
A race one week post Berlin Marathon – madness. Running a PB one week post marathon – painful. Unable to resist a race in my hometown, this just seemed like a good idea. From the off I went for it; I felt there was no point holding back and being cautious. From quite early on the race proved to be almost as mentally testing as a marathon though; my legs were understandably not quite right, and a hilly section in the middle of the course felt like it wiped my body out. I was struggling toward the end, but when doing some running maths and realising what may be possible, I dug deep. I finished in 1:42:07, a new PB, and a time which secured 15th female spot and third place in my age category. I really had to fight hard to get this PB, and I was proud of what I achieved mentally and physically. A half marathon and a marathon PB in the space of a week – I had to be proud really!
Robin Hood Trail 10k - 45:29
An autumnal trail run which was simply a running pleasure. Set in Sherwood Pines, the race had somewhat of a parkrun feel about it – relaxed, friendly and welcoming. I had no real race strategy, I just wanted to enjoy the run, especially as this would be the final race of 2017 I would be taking part in with my friend. The two loop course was set on well-trodden woodland paths and proved to be a glorious place to be running; it did not really seem like a race at all at times. I just ran to feel rather than focusing on times or splits, challenging myself suitably on the course. My relaxed approach saw me place third female overall and earn myself a little trophy. A lovely way to sign out the racing year with my ever present friend and running buddy.
Doncaster 10k - 44:02
A special run with a special person. It had been over two years since I had seen my best friend following her move to Australia, let alone been able to run with her. It seemed like fate that this event had fallen on the weekend she was back visiting, and in her hometown. Powering through the diverse streets of Doncaster with my friend felt almost surreal after so long apart. My friend - a natural speedster - was pushing me and I knew without looking at my watch we were running well. We wanted to try run the whole race together and we did, crossing the line side by side, ending in an emotional hug at the finish. I had set a new PB of 44:02, which was totally unexpected, but the memories and meaning of the race are what mattered to me most; I loved just having my best friend back.
I love parkrun, and this year there have been many memorable weekends spent at my home event in Lincoln. It is my happy place, often the thing that keeps me going through the week, and something which can never fail to make me smile. This year I have enjoyed visiting three new parkruns; Clumber parkrun on New Year’s Day where I surprised myself and finished as first female, Bury St Edmunds parkrun back in my childhood home of Suffolk, and the hilly madness that is Tring parkrun. I achieved my own personal goal of finishing as first female at Lincoln parkrun (twice!) and also had the best Saturday celebrating my 50th parkrun milestone at Lincoln, which I carefully planned to coincide with my friend’s 50th run. I am especially proud of the parkrun inspired cakes we made for the day – it probably took us as long as it has taken us to complete all 50 of our parkruns to bake and decorate the cakes – but it was worth it! Running wise, I have consistently seemed to run within the 21 minute time region this year, usually sub 21:30, and even managed to get under 21 minutes to set a new PB of 20:55 – finish times which never fail to shock me really. Time is not everything though, especially at parkrun, and I simply cannot imagine my life without parkrun now.